WASHINGTON - The EPA formally issued major changes to clean air rules for utilities, refineries and manufacturers in an action supported by industry groups including the NPCA.

But the revised rules were immediately challenged in court by a coalition of New England and Mid-Atlantic states. The group of states said the new rules, which are designed to streamline portions of the Clean Air Act's "New Source Review"(NSR) requirements, would result in greater air-pollution levels.

The group of nine states filed suit on New Year's Eve in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, asking the court to review the new rules. News reports said the lawsuit focuses on four elements of the new rules affecting new technology, a new emissions test, a revised approach for calculating emissions levels, and a cap on pollution levels that encompasses entire plants rather than specific components that are being added or modified. Environmental groups also indicated they planned to join the legal challenge.

The NSR program sets requirements for the installation of anti-pollution equipment associated with expansions or modifications to industrial facilities. EPA Administrator Christine Whitman has said the new rules will encourage emissions reductions by giving companies greater flexibility.

The NPCA said the rule will provide incentives for companies to install state-of-the-art pollution controls and more accurately calculate actual emissions of air pollution. The association also said a proposed rule issued by the EPA would improve the "routine maintenance, repair and replacement" exclusion currently contained in agency regulations. The change will provide greater clarity on what types of activities meet the standard of routine maintenance, repair and replacement, the NPCA said. See www.epa.gov/nsr/ and www.paint.org/ind_issue/current/jan/issue03.htm for more information.